Healing touch: Topicals can provide pain relief, among other benefits

Rubbing hemp oil or cannabis salve on a sore back may not be the first image to come to mind when someone hears the term, “medical marijuana.” However, salves, oils and creams not only play a crucial role in pain management, but treat a wide variety of other ailments as well. All of these medicinal remedies contain cannabinoids – substances produced naturally in the body which are also found in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids are processed through cannabinoid receptors, which weave themselves into the surfaces of our cells and process THC — along with other substances found in marijuana — and those naturally occurring chemicals in our bodies. CB2 receptors, which are found all over the body, including the skin, react with the active ingredients in topicals, reducing swelling and inflammation and relieving pain as the skin absorbs them. Much of the evidence for the healing properties of these topicals is anecdotal, but some animal research has shown the benefits. A 2007 study published in the journal Science indicates that the body’s own cannabinoids can reduce inflammation in mice. The mice observed had more difficulty healing wounds when researchers blocked their internal cannabinoids, molecular neurobiologist and lead author Dr. Meliha Karsak told SFGate. Although the study was conducted on mice, a great deal of anecdotal evidence has found topicals effective for pain relief in humans as well. Skin soother The aforementioned study conducted on mice offered another key finding: it showed that those treated with topical THC healed faster from skin allergies. Herbalists have long used salves for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Hempseed oil, used either as a base or as a primary ingredient in many topical treatments, has many benefits. It is high in EFAs, or essential fatty acids, which skin loses naturally from daily exposure of the sun’s UV rays. Hemp oil is also high in gamma-linoleic acid, a substance that helps the skin with elasticity. In addition to their medicinal benefits, topicals help nourish and moisturize the skin.